The worldwide leader in sports is used to being an original content creator, not an affiliate who depends on others to assist with their programming needs. But different times call for different measures, and ESPN is taking a bold step by striking a deal with the MLB Network to bring the show “Intentional Talk” to the ESPN2 afternoon lineup.
The MLB Network has delivered the hit show on its channel since 2011. It features Chris Rose and former baseball player Kevin Millar and is known for its ability to blend baseball talk and entertainment in a seamless way.
The plan according to a report in Variety is for the show to hit the ESPN2 airwaves starting May 1st. It’ll air each day at 4pm and run 60 minutes in length. When the MLB off-season rolls around the show will be reduced to 30 minutes.
“The move provides us with more baseball studio content than we’ve ever had,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and acquisitions, in a statement. “We’re grateful to have such a productive relationship with our Major League Baseball partners and we look forward to our continued collaboration on this and many other projects.”
Magnus is doing his job by trying to spin the news as an opportunity for the network to boost its baseball programming but that rings hollow when the news is delivered one day after numerous employees lost work and the company dropped a grenade on its baseball department. Gone from the network’s baseball team are Dallas Braden, Jim Bowden, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville among others.
On the flip side, this isn’t actually a bad move. “Intentional Talk” is a quality program, the costs will be significantly less for ESPN, and most sports fans weren’t flocking to ESPN2 at 4pm anyway. If it allows the company to direct its energies and resources into more important programming matters that’s smart business.
It may be convenient to rip the company for adding another brand’s product but this happens on radio and television often. The only difference is that it’s uncommon for ESPN to play the role of an affiliate. But when the bottom line gets impacted and the company is forced to reduce head count, sometimes you have to respond in ways that are foreign to your original line of thinking.
The question going forward is how many more of these type of arrangements are on the horizon for the four letter network? If this becomes a bigger focus of ESPN’s new business model, will consumers continue to refer to them as the worldwide leader or the worldwide distributor? Only time will tell.